The Hero of Ages (Page 97)

Sazed turned with a start. “Where?”

“That depression in the ash,” TenSoon said, nodding his large head toward it. “Good luck, Keeper. I have my own duties to attend to.”

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Sazed nodded, feeling shocked that they had traveled so far so quickly, and untied his pack from the kandra’s back. He left the bag containing bones—those of the wolfhound, and another set that looked human. Probably a body TenSoon carried to use should he need it.

The enormous horse turned to go.

“Wait!” Sazed said, raising a hand.

TenSoon looked back.

“Good luck,” Sazed said. “May . . . our god preserve you.”

TenSoon smiled with a strange equine expression, then took off, galloping through the ash.

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Sazed turned to the depression in the ground. Then, he hefted his pack—filled with metalminds and a solitary tome—and walked forward. Even moving that short distance in the ash was difficult. He reached the depression and—taking a breath—began to dig his way into the ash.

He didn’t get far before he slid down into a tunnel. It didn’t open straight down, fortunately, and he didn’t fall far. The cavern around him came up at an incline, opening to the outside world in a hole that was half pit, half cave. Sazed stood up in the cavern, then reached into his pack and pulled out a tinmind. With this, he tapped eyesight, improving his vision as he walked1 into the darkness.

A tinmind didn’t work as well as an Allomancer’s tin—or, rather, it didn’t work in the same way. It could allow one to see very great distances, but it was of far less help in poor illumination. Soon, even with his tinmind, Sazed was walking in darkness, feeling his way along the tunnel.

And then, he saw light.

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“Halt!” a voice called. “Who returns from Contract?”

Sazed continued forward. A part of him was frightened, but another part was just curious. He knew a very important fact.

Kandra could not kill humans.

Sazed stepped up to the light, which turned out to be a melon-sized rock atop a pole, its porous material coated with some kind of glowing fungus. A pair of kandra blocked his path. They were easily identifiable as such since they wore no clothing and their skins were translucent. They appeared to have bones carved from rock.

Fascinating! Sazed thought. They make their own bones. I really do have a new culture to explore. A whole new society—art, religion, mores, gender interactions. . . .

The prospect was so exciting that, for a moment, even the end of the world seemed trivial by comparison. He had to remind himself to focus. He needed to investigate their religion first. Other things were secondary.

“Kandra, who are you? Which bones do you wear?”

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“You are going to be surprised, I think,” Sazed said as gently as he could. “For, I am no kandra. My name is Sazed, Keeper of Terris, and I have been sent to speak with the First Generation.”

Both kandra guards started.

“You don’t have to let me pass,” Sazed said. “Of course, if you don’t take me into your Homeland, then I’ll have to leave and tell everyone on the outside where it is. . . .”

The guards turned to each other. “Come with us,” one of them finally said.

Koloss also had little chance of breaking free. Four spikes, and their diminished mental capacity, left them fairly easy to dominate. Only in the throes of a blood frenzy did they have any form of autonomy.

Four spikes also made them easier for Allomancers to control. In our time, it required a duralumin Push to take control of a kandra. Koloss, however, could be taken by a determined regular Push, particularly when they were frenzied.

67

ELEND AND VIN STOOD ATOP the Fadrex City fortifications. The rock ledge had once held the bonfires they’d watched in the night sky—she could see the blackened scar from one of them just to her left.

It felt good to be held by Elend again. His warmth was a comfort, particularly when looking out of the city, over the field that Elend’s army had once occupied. The koloss army was growing. It stood silently in the blizzard-like ash, thousands strong. More and more of the creatures were arriving each day, amassing to an overwhelming force.

“Why don’t they just attack?” Yomen asked with annoyance. He was the only other one who stood on the overlook; Ham and Cett were down below, seeing to the army’s preparation. They’d need to be ready to defend the moment that the koloss assaulted the city.

“He wants us to know just how soundly he’s going t1o beat us,” Vin said. Plus, she added in her mind, he’s waiting. Waiting on that last bit of information.

Where is the atium?

She’d fooled Ruin. She’d proven to herself that it could be done. Yet, she was still frustrated. She felt like she’d spent the last few years of her life reacting to every wiggle of Ruin’s fingers. Each time she thought herself clever, wise, or self-sacrificing, she discovered that she’d simply been doing his will the entire time. It made her angry.

But what could she do?

I have to make Ruin play his hand, she thought. Make him act, expose himself.

For a brief moment, back in Yomen’s throne room, she had felt something amazing. With the strange power she’d gained from the mists, she’d touched Ruin’s own mind—via Marsh—and seen something therein.

Fear. She remembered it, distinct and pure. At that moment, Ruin had been afraid of her. That’s why Marsh had fled.

Somehow, she’d taken the power of the mists into her, then used them to perform Allomancy of surpassing might. She’d done it before, when fighting the Lord Ruler in his palace. Why could she only draw on that power at random, unpredictable times? She’d wanted to use it against Zane, but had failed. She’d tried a dozen times during the last few days, just as she’d tried during the days following the Lord Ruler’s death. She’d never been able to access even a hint of that power.

It struck like a thunderclap.

A massive, overpowering quake rolled across the land. The rock ledges around Fadrex broke, some of them tumbling to the ground. Vin remained on her feet, but only with the help of pewter, and she barely snatched Yomen by the front of his obligator robes as he careened and almost fell from their ledge. Elend grabbed her arm, reinforcing her as the sudden quake shook the land. Inside the city, several buildings fell.

Then, all went still. Vin breathed heavily, forehead slicked with sweat, Yomen’s robes clutched in her grip. She glanced at Elend.

“That one was far worse than the previous ones,” he said, cursing quietly to himself.

“We’re doomed,” Yomen said softly, forcing himself to his feet. “If the things you say are true, then not only is the Lord Ruler dead, but the thing he spent his life fighting has now come to destroy the world.”

“We’ve survived this long,” Elend said firmly. “We’ll make it yet. Earthquakes may hurt us, but they hurt the koloss too—look, and you’ll see that some of them were crushed by toppling rocks. If things get rough up here, we can retreat inside the cavern.”

“And will it survive quakes like that one?” Yomen asked.

“Better than the buildings up here will. None of this was built for earthquakes—but if I know the Lord Ruler, he anticipated the quakes, and picked caverns that were solid and capable of withstanding them.”

Yomen seemed to take little comfort in the words, but Vin smiled. Not because of what Elend said, but because of how he said it. Something about him had changed. He seemed confident in a way he’d never been before. He had some of the same idealistic air he’d expressed when he’d been a youth at court—yet he also had the hardness of the man who’d led his people in war.

He’d finally found the balance. And, oddly enough, it had come from deciding to retreat.

“He does have a point, however, Vin,” Elend said in a softer tone. “We need to figure out our next step. Ruin obviously intended to defeat us here, but he has been pushed back for a time, at least. What now?”We have to trick him, she thought. Perhaps . . . use the same strategy Yomen used on me?

She paused, considering the idea. She reached up, fingering her earring. It had been mangled after its trip through Marsh’s head, of course, but it had been a simple matter to have a smith bend it back into shape.

The first time she’d met with Yomen, he’d given her back the earring. It had seemed like a strange move, giving metal to an Allomancer. Yet, in a controlled environment, it had been very clever. He’d been able to test and see if she had any hidden metals—all the while reserving the fact that he could burn atium and protect himself.

Later, he’d been able to get her to reveal her hand, to attack and show him what she was planning, so that he could defuse it in a situation where he was in power. Could she do the same to Ruin?

That thought mixed with another one. Both times when the mists had helped her, they had come in a moment of pure desperation. It was as if they reacted to her need. So, was there a way to put herself in a situation where her need was even greater than before? It was a thin hope, but—mixed with her desire to force Ruin’s hand—it formed a plan in her head.

Put herself in danger. Make Ruin bring his Inquisitors, putting Vin in a situation where the mists had to help her. If that didn’t work, maybe she could get Ruin to play his hand or spring any hidden traps he had waiting for her.

It was incredibly risky, but she could feel that she didn’t have much time. Ruin would win soon—very soon—unless she did something. And, this was all she could think of to do. But, how could she make it happen without explaining it to Elend? She couldn’t speak of the plan, lest she reveal to Ruin what she was doing.

She looked up at Elend, a man she seemed to know better than herself. He hadn’t needed to tell her that he’d reconciled the two halves of himself, she’d simply been able to tell it from looking at him. With a person like that, did she even really need to speak her plans? Perhaps . . . “Elend,” she said, “I think there’s only one way to save this city.”

“And that is?” he said slowly.

“I have to go get it.”

Elend frowned, then opened his mouth. She looked into his eyes, hoping. He paused.

“The . . . atium?” he guessed.

Vin smiled. “Yes. Ruin knows that we have it. He’ll find it even if we don’t use it. But, if we bring it here, at least we can fight.”

“It would be safer here anyway,” Elend said slowly, eyes confused, but trusting her. “I’d rather have an army between those riches and our enemies. Perhaps we could use it to bribe some local warlords to help us.”

It seemed a flimsy ruse to her. And yet, she knew that was because she could see Elend’s confusion, could read his lies in his eyes. She understood him, as he understood her. It was an understanding that required love.

And she suspected that was something that Ruin would never be able to comprehend.

“I need to leave, then,” she said, embracing him tightly, closing her eyes.

“I know.”

She held him close for a few moments longer, feeling the ash fall around her, blow against her skin and cheek. Feeling Elend’s heart beat beneath her ear. She leaned up and kissed him. Finally, she pulled back, then checked her metals. She met his eyes, and he nodded, so she jumped down into the city to gather some horseshoes.

A few moments later, she was shooting through the ashy air toward Luthadel, a maelstrom of metal around her. Elend stood silently behind, on the rock ledge, watching her go.

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